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Publix's New Flavor
The grocery chain will open stores aimed at Hispanic consumers
By Sarah Hale Meitner | Sentinel Staff Writer
March 4, 2005
Publix Super Markets is branching out with a Hispanic flair.
The Lakeland-based grocer confirmed Thursday it plans to convert two of its 850 stores into Hispanic-format supermarkets, with bilingual employees, Spanish music on the loudspeaker, and hard-to-find imports.
Publix Sabor, which means Publix Flavor, will open in early May in Kissimmee and Hialeah. The two Florida stores will feature expanded selections of Hispanic foods, including new offerings from Publix's private-label food line, such as a mojo marinade and frozen plantains.
"The future for Publix is very bright in Central Florida, but we can't rely just on what we've done in the past," company President William E. Crenshaw said. " . . . We need to keep trying new things."
He said the changes will make the stores more appealing to the growing and lucrative Latino market.
Studies show that Hispanics tend to shop more frequently and spend more money than non-Hispanic households. Hispanics' buying powers skyrocketed 160 percent between 1990 and 2001, to $542 billion, according to the Food Marketing Institute. Research suggests that number could top $650 billion this year.
In Central Florida, Hispanics spend about $6.9 billion annually -- a figure expected to top the $8 billion mark by 2007, according to a Hispanic-community economic report prepared by Fishkind & Associates and released Thursday.
"We want to be proactive in anticipating trends," said Crenshaw, who was a featured speaker Thursday at the Hispanic Summit, an Orlando Regional Chamber of Commerce event.
Catering to the growing Hispanic market isn't new for Pub- lix. Orlando's No. 1 grocer and the country's ninth-largest supermarket chain already runs Spanish advertisements and displays Spanish signs in some stores.
"We've been doing it for years, we're just branching out a little," said Maria Brous, a company spokeswoman.
She said the company wanted to avoid alienating non-Hispanic customers, particularly those who shop at the locations being converted.
The Sabor stores are near other, conventional Publix markets, Brous said. But the company expects a fair amount of non-Hispanics to shop at the new stores as well.
For now, the two Publix Sabor locations are prototypes. Brous said the company will watch their performance before expanding the concept. She said there are no plans to open supermarkets catering to other ethnic groups.
The Kissimmee location, at 1980 E. Osceola Parkway, closed in February for renovations. Shelves are being restocked and crews will add "Sabor" to the store's nameplate. Publix officials wouldn't give details of the store's new look.
The community surrounding the Kissimmee store is about 60 percent Hispanic, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.
Not everyone in the community is happy about the conversion, however.
Jenny Wilson, 52, who lives nearby, shopped at the Osceola Parkway Publix store at least twice a week for nearly 20 years. Although she is confident the Sabor store will serve the community's burgeoning Hispanic population, she doesn't plan to shop there.
Instead, she'll drive a few extra miles to another Publix location.
"It sounds like a great concept and great spot, I'm just disappointed they're doing it at my Publix," said Wilson, a small-business owner. "Publix isn't losing a customer in me, but they're inconveniencing one."